RALEIGH – It took more than two months for the San Jose Sharks to lose consecutive games in regulation, as they dropped a 5-3 decision to Carolina on Friday night despite having the lead after both periods.
Still, there is some reason to be alarmed, as the Sharks have surrendered 10 goals in their last two games and have looked sloppy and lethargic during lengthy stretches of play in each of the three games on their current road trip.
[Instant Replay: Canes strike late, beat Sharks 5-3]
They got away with it in Toronto on Tuesday, a 4-2 win, surviving a miserable start to the second period. Against Pittsburgh on Thursday (a 5-1 loss) and Carolina on Friday, they weren’t so fortunate.
“Some concerns about our group right now,” Todd McLellan said on Friday night. “I don’t think we’re playing with the energy that we played with [a week ago]. Why is that? We don’t seem to have the jump, and when we don’t have the jump, we’re not using our heads very well.”
The Sharks got the start they wanted – no surprise, as they’re now outscoring the opposition 40-14 in the first period after goals from Tommy Wingels and Marc-Edouard Vlasic in the opening frame – but Carolina outplayed San Jose for much of the remaining 40 minutes.
Goaltender Alex Stalock was the Sharks’ best player at the midway point of the game, until a Jay Harrison shot hit the boards behind him and deflected in off of the back of his pads at 11:36 of the second to cut San Jose’s lead to 2-1.
That was one of two shots that Stalock could have played better. The other was a Jordan Staal goal that came in the third period when Stalock was unable to freeze a loose puck, giving the Hurricanes their first lead, 3-2.
“It was a routine play,” Stalock said. “I went to go freeze it, and it came out from under my glove, and he ended up banging it in off the side.”
Still, the Sharks re-tied the game a little more than four minutes later, when Justin Braun’s wrist shot somehow beat Cam Ward at 9:35 of the third. San Jose couldn’t gain any momentum from that marker, though, and Elias Lindholm’s deflection past Stalock with exactly six minutes left in the game was all the Hurricanes needed to secure their third straight win.
Stalock said: “I was following it to go blocker side. It changed directions in the slot and ended up going five-hole.”
Along with Staal’s empty-netter to put the game away, the Sharks have allowed four goals in a period in each of the last two games. On Thursday against Pittsburgh, it was four straight goals to start the second period that spelled certain doom.
“You can’t give up four goals in a period, especially in the third period, and ever win,” said Couture, who missed the start of the third period while getting repairs. “We’ve got to tighten up a lot defensively. I think a lot of players are trying to cheat for offensive chances, and it cost us.”
The Sharks and Hurricanes were both playing the second of back-to-back games, and third game in four nights. Could fatigue be playing a role in the recent downturn?
McLellan, whose club was outshot 35-25 against the Hurricanes, admitted he isn’t sure.
“I’m looking for the answer. I see the same thing that you see. I don’t see an energized team right now,” he said. “I see us chasing, and I see the other team dictating the pace of the game. I see us making sloppy plays, sloppy passes – even missing assignments, defensive assignments that we should be able to do in our sleep right now.
“That could be lazy or that could be fatigue, and we have to figure that part out.”